To say that Rajkumar Hirani’s Sanju is a problematic biopic doesn’t quite cut it. It’s also a misleading film. It’s one thing for the director to use his tricks to emotionally manipulate his audience to discuss issues like empathy among strangers, perpetuate Gandhian ways, the perils of rote-learning and godmen using religion for profit. And quite another to use them to paint a deliberate ‘positive picture’ of his long-time collaborator.
That’s the job of a PR firm.
And while Hirani has been constantly fighting the so-called ‘cynics’ by saying Sanju isn’t hagiographic, the final film (now in theatres) disagrees. It isn’t exactly hagiographic, but it uses a carefully curated bunch of anecdotes to paint a picture of Dutt, that isn’t meant to be open to interpretation.The film prides itself with its ‘fact-based approach’ to Dutt’s life – and yet, it ‘forgets’ one tiny detail, that could have the audience question Dutt as the narrator of his life story.
A 2013 profile of the actor published in Tehelka, claims that the ‘deal’ between Dutt and Anees Ibrahim that got the actor AK-56 rifles and magazines worth 250 cartridges, also included a few hand grenades. Hirani’s film recounts the incident about the assault rifles, the cartridges and the instruction to destroy them. It conveniently ‘forgets’ about the hand grenades, that would directly link Dutt to knowing about the explosives/weapons being smuggled into Mumbai, right before the ’93 bomb blasts. And how will the actor’s Munnabhai fans take this piece of information? Not very well, presumably.
Well played, Mr Hirani. It’s ironic how he resorts to fake news, to paint a ‘wronged-by-the-media’ portrait for his good friend. In his bid to show the ‘true, untold story’ of Sanjay Dutt, Hirani carefully picks his facts.
Not that this is the only major flaw in the film, but it’s certainly one of the most significant. He glazes over the death of Dutt’s first wife and the actor’s raging tabloid stories from that time – with a single, broad brush stroke of how ‘media is fake’. Why is his wife Manyata Dutt so insistent on clearing Dutt’s image with ‘his side of the story’? No one asks, not even the world’s ‘top biographer’.
Sanjay Dutt’s life should have made for a fascinating film, but this one’s a neatly cauterised take aiming to ‘repair’ his image. It’s no better than those nondescript Bollywood testimonials that constantly reiterate how Dutt ‘has a heart of a gold’. But why did he need hand grenades to protect his family? How can one be *this* oblivious, while being chaddi buddies with the underworld?
No one asks, and Hirani forgets to address it in his ‘irreverent’ film.